The first – and before today, the last – time Bradley Whitford made an hour of television was in the spring of 2007. The show aired on NBC Studio 60 on the Sunset Stripand he was one of its stars.
The show was canceled shortly thereafter.
“I killed Workshop 60, actually,” the Emmy-winning actor joked during a recent chat with TVLine. “Lots of hopes for this show, and then the finale came.”
Whitford Now Stars as Commander Joseph Lawrence on Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale and marked his second stint as a director with this week’s gutting episode, “Allegiance.” (Read a full recap.) Read on to hear his thoughts on stepping behind the camera — while staying in front for much of the pivotal episode — and his excellent tease for the season 5 finale of the series. next week.
TVLINE | I want to talk to you about this episode that you directed and that you were in a plot, which is not something we see often.
Or what I expected. [Laughs] You never know what you’re going to get, and I naively thought, “Well, that would probably be a bottle episode that’s set in the studio, which I’m not in.” And then I read the plan and I was like, Jesus, like, I’m in a plot of that. It was a surprise, and it was not a bottle episode. [Laughs] There’s all this crazy crap going on.
TVLINE | There’s some ambiguity as to who gave June the information that led to the failed mission, but come on: Lawrence was involved. Or did I read wrong?
i think he said [that] this is exactly what he is trying to avoid. I don’t think he has full, magical control of Gilead. And even if it was, it’s a very tenuous place, because you can find yourself on the wall very quickly. So no. Do I think he intentionally cheated on her? I don’t know what that would do.
The fundamental question that some people have asked about this is: is this Lawrence becoming a pragmatic and ambitious power seeker? I don’t think so at all. I mean, it happened years before you met [him]… I don’t think Lawrence is interested in power for his own sake. I think what developed here was that there was a fearlessness about him when June – I mean, my God, the Fred stuff, the flying angels. He’s been reckless, and I think he sees an opportunity that creates an interesting, sadly relevant conversation about at least a little further into the world of The servant.
… part of what makes [June] such a compelling character is… she blew the spark of decency in him… That’s why the relationship is so interesting and so painful. The phone call is then sore. There is something very familial, a loss of something that is not easy. It’s not just a power dynamic.
TVLINE | You directed an episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset StripAnd that’s the only other time you’ve realized, isn’t it
Yeah. I was going to lead on west wing. I always wanted to realize west wingthen I proposed a story to [executive producer] John Wells that I wanted the writers to work on. John surprised me by saying, “That’s a good idea. I think you should write it, if you can write it in a week. But if you write it, you can’t direct it. [Laughs] And I ended up loving it and was able to write another episode the following year.
So here is. I killed Workshop 60, Actually. I actually killed him. Lots of hopes for this show, then the finale came.
TVLINE | That murder aside: how do the two directing experiences compare?
Both times I’ve realized this is a very safe way to do it. I work with actors I know and love, I work on shows I know and love. I’m not dealing with what most directors have to deal with, which is that paradox of having to be an authority figure when you’re an outsider. It was funny, because in fact, I hated, hated, hated look at everything I was in.
And I remember [Studio 60 EP] Tommy Schlamme gets mad at me when I get ready Workshop 60, because all of a sudden he says, “You don’t watch the show, do you?” And I was like, “No, but I know how you do it. [Laughs] You know? I’m there every day!” And on [Handmaid’s], I got better at watching… In this show, you’re intimidated if you’re an actor by what the visually spectacular nature of the show. And I didn’t know why I was seeing him again, but at first it was intimidating. And then it really got me excited because of all the different things you could do, visually, with it.
Also: Nicola Daley is just underpaid.[Laughs] I have no idea what she does, but she’s a [director of photography] who arrived this year and who was simply amazing to work with.
TVLINE | Before we go, what can you tease about next week’s final?
What can I tease? June is no longer safe in Canada. Or, from Canada is no longer safe.
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